American Archive of Public Broadcasting Launches Online Reading Room Making Historical Media Content Available to the Public

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Library of Congress and WGBH announce the addition of nearly 7,000 audiovisual streaming files of historical content to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting website at americanarchive.org.

In conjunction with UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, WGBH and the Library of Congress are pleased to announce the launch of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Online Reading Room. With contributions from more than 100 public media organizations across the country, programs that for decades have gathered dust on shelves are now available to stream on the AAPB website (americanarchive.org). This rich collection of programs dating from the 1940s to the 2010s will help tell the stories of local communities throughout the nation in the last half of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st.

Initially launched in April 2015 with 2.5 million inventory records, the AAPB website has added nearly 7,000 audiovisual streaming files of historical content from public media stations across the country. The Library of Congress, WGBH Boston and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have embarked on an unprecedented initiative to preserve historical public television and radio programs of the past 70 years. This extraordinary material includes national and local news and public affairs programs, local history productions that document the heritage of our varied regions and communities, and programs dealing with education, environmental issues, music, art, literature, dance, poetry, religion and even filmmaking on a local level. The project ensures that this valuable source of American social, cultural and political history and creativity will be saved and made accessible for current and future generations.

Nearly 40,000 hours, comprising 68,000 digital files, of historical public broadcasting content have been preserved. On the website, nearly 7,000 of these American public radio and television programs dating back to the 1940s are now accessible to the public. These audio and video materials, contributed by more than 100 public broadcasting organizations across the country, are an exciting new resource to uncover ways that common concerns over the past half-century have played out on the local scene. Users are encouraged to check back often, as AAPB staff continue to add more content to the website. The entire collection of 40,000 hours is available for research on location at WGBH and the Library of Congress.

“The collective archives of public media contain an unparalleled audio and video record of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st,” said WGBH Vice Chairman Henry Becton. “These treasures of our times aren’t available elsewhere and it’s essential that we preserve them and make them available as widely as possible.”

The collection includes interviews and performances by local and national luminaries from a broad variety of professions and cultural genres. Just a few examples of the items in the collection include: Pacifica Radio Archives’ 1956 interview with Rosa Parks during the Montgomery Bus Boycott; KCTS 9’s 1999 live broadcast from the opening reception of the World Trade Organization's Seattle Summit; and New England Public Radio’s 1974 debate between U.S. Rep. Martha Griffiths, sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly, the main opponent of the ERA.

In addition to the inauguration of the Online Reading Room, the AAPB also has launched three curated exhibits featuring items of topical and historical significance:

  • Documenting and Celebrating Public Broadcasting Station Histories
  • Voices from the Southern Civil Rights Movement, and
  • Climate Change Conversations: Cause, Impacts, Solutions

“The Library of Congress and WGBH have worked diligently over the last few months to determined that we can provide access to nearly 7,000 audiovisual files through this invaluable resource," said Mark Sweeney, the Library of Congress Associate Librarian for Library Services. “The website clearly demonstrates the importance of public broadcasting in documenting the nation’s rich history.”

“The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is not only proud to support the American Archive of Public Broadcasting—we are pleased that now this public media treasure trove of American history will be available to all Americans—just one click away,” said CPB president and CEO Patricia Harrison. “The archive’s role in preserving our nation’s history through public media is an invaluable service to all Americans.”

The AAPB Executive Advisory Council comprises a distinguished group of individuals from around the country who are passionate about public media and preserving its rich history for the public. Led by former WGBH president Henry Becton as acting chair, the council will guide the strategic direction of the AAPB with the goal of ensuring that the archive continues to serve the needs of public media stakeholders and the American people.

The council will collaborate with the AAPB team to raise awareness of the collection, assist in outreach to its networks and communities and guide the development of a plan for sustainability. More information is available on the American Archive website at americanarchive.org.

About The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress, the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. The Library holds the largest collection of audio-visual recordings in the world and has been collecting and preserving historically, culturally and aesthetically significant recordings in all genres for nearly 120 years. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website, http://www.loc.gov.

About WGBH
WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the web, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur, Curious George, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a leader in educational multimedia, including PBS LearningMedia, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards…even two Oscars. Find more information at http://www.wgbh.org.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services. Visit us at http://www.cpb.org.

Media Contacts

Library of Congress:
Sheryl Cannady
202-707-6456
scannady(at)loc(dot)gov

WGBH:
Emily Balk
617-300-5317
emily_balk(at)wgbh(dot)org

Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
Letitia King
202-879-9658
press(at)cpb(dot)org

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Sheryl Cannady
Library of Congress
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